What does it take to make Mom happy? I’ve visited nearly 20 countries in the 17 years I’ve worked with Food for the Hungry (FH), and it seems all mothers want the same things. They want their children to be healthy and happy. They yearn for their kids to finish school.
If you probe deeper, many of the mothers express feelings of loneliness and doubt. In urban areas, where people migrate in search of better lives, the women often don’t know anyone well. They’ve come from small towns where you knew everybody from birth, and they don’t understand how to start a friendship from scratch.
Because of their grueling house and farm work, their backs and joints ache constantly well before they hit what we’d call middle age. I’ve heard many complaints about persistent, debilitating headaches, often due to iron deficiencies in their diets. Moms who work all day in small rooms with smoky stoves suffer from asthma or persistent bronchitis.
You can give them stuff to take care of the immediate need, but FH does more than that: We create connections. FH often starts Mother’s Clubs in communities, where moms can learn and have fun together. Our Care Groups teach moms how to improve health and hygiene, even with their limited resources. In some FH countries, the moms learn how to grow nutritious vegetables. They’re also learning how to create household budgets and save money that will help them reach their dreams. They learn that they are daughters of the King of Kings, and hear what the Bible says about being a wife, mother and person of value.
The key is that they learn together. They are successful together and they make mistakes together. And with the support, they create a new type of community that cares for one another and helps children grow in wisdom and stature. This new type of community also includes husbands and fathers, who learn how to help and encourage moms.
In the late 1990s, I helped recruit a team of college students at the Urbana missions conference, to serve in Bolivia.Toward the end of the team’s time, we decided to provide manicures to the women in the community. We thought that a gentle hand massage and pretty nails could really lift their spirits. It was the dead of winter, well below zero every night, and we could see the weather had sucked all the moisture out of hands and faces in the neighborhood.
We were swamped. One of the team members had brought large bottles of fragrant rose-scented hand cream, which we massaged into the mothers’ tired hands just before painting their nails.
I took a break for a moment and leaned against the metal door to the community center where we were gathered. Suddenly I felt a gentle tap-tap-tap on the door. I opened it to find one of the fathers from the community, standing in the doorway, holding a cone made of paper.
He quietly asked if he could have some of the hand cream in the cone, because his wife couldn’t come right now. I obliged and he went off with a spring in his step. A few minutes later, there was more gentle tapping…another husband, another paper cone. We had several men stop by that night, wanting to treat their wives with something special.
I don’t know for sure if these fathers were part of the marriage seminars we that FH was holding in that community. But I’d like to think that perhaps our manicure sessions simply gave them the opportunity to practice what they’d heard about appreciating their spouse. I know there were some happy moms out there for whom a paper cone warmed what was otherwise a frigid winter night.
You can make a mom happy too, right where you are. If you sponsor a child, you’ll give a mom her greatest dream of seeing her child grow up healthy, happy and educated. You can help us purchase mosquito nets that keep kids healthy, or chickens that the mom can use to earn some extra money. And know that along with the tangible stuff that FH provides, we also help moms find friends and supportive community.